Commercial aviation aircraft operator security
Foreign operators must adhere to U.S. aviation security regulations.
For airport operators, the foreign air carrier arrival area represents the U.S. border, making customs, immigration, and agriculture protection agents a part of the airport security program. The airport operator must provide these agencies with the proper facilities to secure the U.S. border, including handling reverse screening.
The theme for this chapter is “protecting the plane, wherever its at.”
This chapter provides some historical context, primarily the shift after 9/11 of the screening function from the air carrier to TSA. It covers the aircraft operator security program requirements, which still includes screening. This may cause some confusion as most people in the United States perceived screening to be TSAʼs job. However it is still the requirement of the aircraft operator to ensure that people and things are properly screened or physically inspected before being placed on the aircraft. In the United States, TSA provides that “service.” When a US flagged carrier flies out of the United States that carrier must ensure that a properly authorized government authority, contractor or their own personnel conduct the screening.
After explaining the various aircraft operator security programs I provide them with exercises, put them into small groups and let them determine, based on the information provided, the minimum-security program that is required. Iʼve included these exercises in the attachment.
Note that in this chapter there is also information on airline employee safety, both on the aircraft and on the ground.
If you havenʼt watched the movie United 93 up until now, this is a good time to do so. There is also an older movie from the 1980s called The Flight (originally it was called the Hijacking of TWA 847). While itʼs 80s cheese, it does a good job of showing the dynamics of a hijacking in progress.
The YouTube clip on the Air France hijacking in 1994 is also a good video to watch at this point.
A pax Bags journey
Render a decision in under 3 seconds, 1800 bags per hour
The Smiths Detection CTX 9800 DSi explosive detection system (EDS) uses a proprietary single X-ray source, dual energy design that provides high-resolution 3D images along with 2D and 3D organic/inorganic material discrimination
Most a/c bombings focused on placing an IED in the hold of an aircraft
EDS is the fundamental tool
X-ray machine using computerized tomography
$1 million per unit
(improvised explosive device)
Canada = 80 million pax/yr verus U.S with 800 million (2.5 billion bags) (AC around 50 million)
Nearly 3 times that amount in checked baggage (250-300 million bags)
EDS – CTX9800 DSI
Morpho Detection’s CTX 9800 DSi™ represents the latest evolution in CTX™ explosives detection system (EDS) technology. The CTX 9800 DSi introduces a new Data Acquisition System (DAS) that delivers unprecedented high-resolution 3D images. This unique high-resolution imaging engine, called Clarity, represents the culmination of Morpho Detection’s years of aviation security experience around the world combined with GE Healthcare’s leading-edge imaging technology. Benefits • TSA-certified • Meets ECAC Performance Standard 3 for EDS • Unprecedented high-resolution 3D images through Morpho Detection’s Clarity Data Acquisition System (DAS) • Constant-width one-meter conveyor belt and tunnel • Intuitive and simplified user interface • Dynamic screening capable of automatic bag-by-bag detection mode selection via the Baggage Handling System (BHS) • Multiplexing solutions • Extensive support capability and experience
X-ray of a suitcase showing a pipebomb and a laptop
Five-tier system – checked baggage screening (Uk/Canada)
Level 1 – Conventional X-ray machine
(70% of all checked bags are cleared)
(5% are cleared)
Level 3 – EDS using computerized tomography (previous side)
(2% of bags are cleared)
Level 4 – reconciliation or removing
Level 5 – pax not found / refusal
Canada and the United Kingdom use a five-tier system of checked baggage screening:
Level 1 – an inspection by a conventional X-ray machine. The computer software within the X-ray machine makes a threat determination and either sends the bag to the Level 2 inspection for additional scrutiny or routes it to the aircraft if there is no threat.
Approximately 70% of all checked bags are cleared at Level 1
Level 2 – bags not cleared at Level 1 are inspected by an automated EDS system.
Another 5% are cleared at this level and proceed to the aircraft.
Level 3 – bags not cleared at Levels 1 and 2, undergo another inspection by EDS using computerized tomography (the same systems certified by the TSA in the United States) and a human operator interpretation or a check using ETD or quadrapole resonance (QR) technology.
Another 2% of bags are cleared at this level
Level 4 – consists of reconciling the bag with the passenger or removing it from the inspection area to be remotely detonated
The argument for moving a bag that may possibly have an IED is that most IEDs smuggled through the checked bag process are triggered by barometric pressure, a timing device, or a radio frequency trigger. They are not set off by motion, as the bomber would probably not be able to arm the device and then hand it to a ticket agent without the bomb detonating.
The argument against moving the bag is that the IED may be so unstable, regardless of the triggering mechanism, that it may detonate.
Level 5 – occurs on about 1 or 2 bags in 50 million
A bag reaches Level 5 classification when the passenger cannot be found or refuses to open the bag. At this point, either the area is evacuated or the bag moved via a mobile blast containment system where it is then inspected further or destroyed.
Created in 1972 following an event from JFK-LAX – dog discovered bog 12min before detonation
Highly effective – explosive detection
10 week course
Human handlers “must read the dog”
Military style training
20min shifts, rests for 40min.
The use of canines in explosive detection is highly effective. However, it takes a large number of dogs to scan effectively hundreds of bags for explosives in an hour.
Each dog works a 20-minute shift, and then that dog rests for 40 minutes while another begins its work. Canines must also be exercised and they must have housing and play areas and facilities for trainers to store clothing, training equipment, and dog food. Canines are best used in specific circumstances such as random patrols in terminal or cargo areas or to search bags and aircraft.
July 23, 1968
FCO > TLV
Only successful hijacking
Popular front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
A/c forced to land in ALG
EI AI began implementing escorting taxing flights with armed personnel
July 23, 1968 – El Al Flight 426 experienced the first hijacking of a commercial flight in the Middle East
The gunmen claimed to be members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
The aircraft was forced to land in Algiers, where negotiations began with the hijackers demanding the release of certain Arab passengers
The aircraft, a Boeing 707, was en route from London’s Heathrow Airport to Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome and then to Lod Airport, now known as Ben Gurion International Airport. The plane was diverted to Algiers. 
One of the hijackers opened the unlocked door to the flight deck, clubbed the copilot with the butt of his pistol and ordered the plane to fly to Algiers. The other two hijackers threatened the passengers with pistols and hand grenades.
When the plane landed at Dar El Beida, Algerian authorities impounded the plane. The following day they sent all non-Israeli passengers to France on Air Algérie Caravelle jets. Ten women and children were released over the weekend. The remaining 12 Israeli passengers, and the crew of 10 were held as hostages for the remainder of the .
The hijackers were identified as members of the Jordan-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. They were equipped with Iranian and Indian passports. The hijackers were carefully chosen by the PFLP because of their occupations (a pilot, a colonel in the Palestinian army, and a karate teacher).
The Israeli and Algerian governments negotiated the return of the hostages and plane through diplomatic channels. Five weeks later, everyone was released in exchange for 16 convicted Arab prisoners. According to the BBC, lasting 40 days, it was the longest hijacking of a commercial flight
As a result of this hijacking, Israel implemented the strictest security measures on El Al of any air carrier and also adopted a retaliation policy toward those groups who seek to harm Israeli citizens
6 months after the El Al flight 426 hijacking, two terrorists armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades boarded an El Al Flight while on the ground in Athens, Greece.
Because of these attacks and hijackings, El Al began implementing the practice of escorting taxiing flights with armed personnel in vehicles.
In retaliation for the attack, Israeli commandoes raided the airport in Beirut, Lebanon, and destroyed a dozen Lebanese registered aircraft.
From 1969 to 1970, there were a few other Middle East–related hijackings, mostly for extortion or transportation, along with a couple of airline bombings, but nowhere near the rate of hijackings that were occurring in the United States during the same period.
Besides bomb threats, sabotage, hijackings, and in general… terrorism – what other security issues do airlines face?
See chapter 8, general thoughts, and or experiences/internet
The corporate security responsibilities of an airline include:
Dealing with disgruntled employees
Protection of airline facilities
Employees with addictions
Employees with mental illness challenges
Pilfering of airline assets
Abuse of flying privileges
General loss prevention
General differences between airport and airline security department include:
Personnel – airlines generally employ more people than an individual airport,
Financial – airports are generally nonprofit and airlines are usually for-profit,
Customer base – airports serve a variety of stakeholders including the airlines, vendors, passengers, contractors, and others and airlines generally serve just passengers and cargo customers
With thousands of passengers every day, airlines must be prepared to handle issues such as air rage and on-board medical emergencies.
Catering provides an opportunity for an individual to conceal an improvised-explosive device within the catering stock for loading onto an aircraft.
Extensive background checks are needed to ensure individuals have no criminal history, are legal residents, and do not have past affiliations with terrorist or organized crime groups. For catering personnel with access to the security identification display area or the aircraft, a CHRC must be completed before the person is allowed unescorted access to either.
Catering and vendor facility security is also important. Visitors to flight kitchens and catering facilities should be verified and authorized, and then issued visitor’s identification and be accompanied by a staff member throughout the time they are in the facility.
Once packaged at the flight kitchen, security personnel should monitor the loading of the catered goods onto trucks. Trucks and personnel responsible for moving catered goods should be inspected and searched before accepting the goods each time they enter SIDAs. Random inspections should also be conducted using explosive trace detection (ETD), EDS, or physical inspections.
Catering personnel, such as loaders and drivers, often carry items such as box cutters that are normally prohibited in SIDAs and other sterile areas. Catering personnel should be required to register prohibited items that are essential for the job and be responsible for keeping track of those items.
Millions of dollars of personal belongings are entrusted to airlines every day, and unfortunately the reputation airlines have of losing bags works in the favor of those attempting to steal from a bag.
The advent of the Internet and online sales websites have provided another means to anonymously offload stolen goods, Unfortunately, bag theft involves airline and airport employees and TSA personnel, who then attempt to sell stolen property on eBay or other websites.
Baggage theft of this nature is particularly difficult to investigate as several individuals including airline employees and TSA screeners handle a passenger’s baggage after it is checked as luggage.
Another form of baggage theft occurs at the baggage claim areas where bags are returned to their owners, as passengers are not required to prove that the bag(s) they are taking belong to them.
What is air rage?
What factors can you think drive to air rage?
Threat to the lives of those onboard / Threat to the safety of the flight / Cost to the airline in time and delay
Factors contributing to air rage include the following:
Alcohol and drugs (both legal and illegal)
Being “stuck” on an aircraft
Poor service and limited food and drink options
Cramped quarters and an invasion of personal space
Gender and sexual preferences
Weight and size
The feeling of losing control over your life
Being forced to check carry-on baggage and a lack of space in the overhead bins
The bomb threat came 45 minutes into the flight bound for Panama City out of Pearson airport on Friday. A man identified as Ali Shahi, one of 183 passengers on the Sunwing plane, was agitated, angry over an expensive purchase of cigarettes from the duty-free shop. The 25-year-old man began ripping apart magazines and the safety card from the pouch in front of his seat, grabbing at the window shade to pull it down, said Sunwing officials. The Mississauga resident is then alleged to have uttered “a direct threat against the aircraft,” serious enough that the flight attendant who overheard it alerted the captain and the plane turned around. An hour after the Boeing 737 landed at Pearson, at least six tactical officers stormed the jet, repeatedly yelling at passengers “heads down, hands up.” As they ran past, one officer stayed up front pointing his gun. Shahi was removed from the plane.
A passenger who is upset and argumentative:
In-flight security and response by crewmembers must be addressed by considering the perceived threat and applying the appropriate response strategy. A passenger who is upset and argumentative should receive a verbal response in an attempt to de-escalate the situation.
If the passenger becomes physically violent, then crewmembers need to be able to respond to protect themselves and the safety of the other passengers. If the passenger is threatening the lives of the crewmembers or passengers or the passenger is a terrorist threatening the safety of the flight, crewmembers must have the resources and knowledge to defend the aircraft and themselves. In all cases, from verbal response to deadly force to protect the aircraft, crewmembers should be trained in each area and know when to escalate from one stage to the next.
IATA outlined elements included in flight crew security training:
Determination of the seriousness of any occurrence
Crew communication and coordination
Appropriate responses to defend oneself
Use of protective devices
Psychology of terrorists to cope with hijacker behavior and passenger response
Live situational exercises regarding various threat conditions
Flight deck procedures or aircraft maneuvers to defend aircraft
Any other subject matter deemed appropriate by administrator
Three basic levels of response that should be addressed in self-defense training are:
Verbal – a person is trained in methods and procedures of talking to upset individuals as a way to calm them and move toward a peaceful resolution
Physical – involves contact between a crewmember and a passenger, does not warrant deadly force
Extreme – when life or the safety of the aircraft is in jeopardy. This level should only be used when there are no other options
The terrorist attacks on 9-11 brought to light a long ignored subject—aircrew self-defense training. IATA outlined eight elements to be included in flight crew security training:
Once a situation has escalated to a level requiring a violent response, then the reasonable use of force, lethal force, and passenger restraint must be considered. Passenger restraints present a serious issue considering the legalities involved in false imprisonment and the possibility of aircraft evacuation in an emergency.
A “hold” of any sort requires a level of consent on the part of the person being held or overwhelming force applied by the defenders.
An airline’s use of force policy should be clearly articulated and integrated into the aircrew security training program.
If a hijacking begins, passengers should wait to see if an air marshal or other law enforcement officer takes action. Passengers jumping up in the middle of an armed response may be misidentified as a hijacker and shot.
If it’s apparent that a law enforcement officer is either not onboard or not going to immediately respond, anyone taking action should understand that the most confusing part of a hijack is at the very beginning. This can be used to a defender’s advantage. Defenders should also yell when attacking hijackers as a way to posture themselves and instill fear into the hijackers.
Textbook Page No. 280
Traveler needs high level of awareness of location and nature of his or her surroundings
Encouraged to stay on “Bourbon Street”
Airline personnel protection while Travelling
It is in the interest of both employees and employers to be aware of traveler safety practices. General travel security requires the traveler to have a high level of awareness of location and the nature of his or her surroundings. Airline personnel should be acutely aware of their responsibility to protect their travel documents, uniforms, and equipment. The theft of these items could facilitate criminal or terrorist activity.
Hotel room and street theft constitute nearly 70% of all travel theft.
Theft from vehicles and at airports account for almost 30% of the total thefts.
Tourists in particular are targets. Travelers should minimize these indicators, such as reading a map in public, openly carrying travel guides, dressing differently from local styles, opening a hotel room door to strangers, and not taking extra cautions when using the fitness or pool facilities.
Once at a hotel, flight crews should change from airline attire and dress to blend
in to the local culture.
Travelers should seek directions to restaurants and other sites from hotel staff and get clear directions written down to the destination or from police officers or business owners
Airline personnel should always carry a cell phone and ensure the battery is charged before going out. If venturing out from a hotel alone or with just one other person, advise the hotel staff of the destination and expected return time.